How Video Technology Is Bringing Much-Needed Help to Breastfeeding Moms

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Mom breastfeeding new baby while in hospital in the background with a lactation coach nurse is looking at the camera in the foreground
Lactation consultants can help new moms and babies.

Ask any new mom, and she will tell you: Breastfeeding is no walk in the park.

Luckily there are lactation consultants — care providers who help mothers and their babies with the challenges that sometimes come with breastfeeding.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is taking that invaluable service a step further with video lactation consultations. Having face-to-face conversations from home offers new moms a much-needed convenience during an exciting and exhausting time.

Video consults also improve access to care — allowing moms living in more remote parts of Hawaii to still meet with a lactation consultant when, where and how they need it.

Woman recieving an lactation awareness award holding a gold pan, which is the award, and a sign which says, lactation problems

Natalie Marcus, RN, IBCLC, receiving an award for “breaking down the barriers to lactation problems,” 2015.

Natalie Marcus, RN, IBCLC, is a registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant for outpatient lactation services based out of Kaiser Permanente’s Mapunapuna Clinic in Hawaii. She recently did a Q&A for a local publication, MidWeek, and we share a few excerpts from that interview here.

Can you talk about the use of video in lactation consultations and how it is useful?

Integrated video visits are a new feature of our lactation program. They have been vital for helping moms and babies having difficulties at home, and improve access to care for our members on outer islands, where lactation consultants may not be readily available. Integrated video visits allow us to observe the breastfeeding session and provide our moms with guidance, a plan or simple peace of mind without having to come in for a physical visit. The convenience factor is huge for families with a new baby — they can stay in the comfort of their own home without worrying about packing up the whole family to bring them to the office. All you need is a computer with a webcam or your smart phone and an internet connection to access kp.org.

I imagine many readers would expect that a baby is born and milk naturally comes in and the baby naturally suckles. What kind of issues do new mothers have with lactation and nursing?

For a lot of moms and babies, breastfeeding comes naturally, but for many, it is a labor of love. Moms can have milk supply issues (not enough or too much milk), sore breasts and/or nipples, plugged ducts, breast infection or challenges with pumping and returning to work. Babies can also be a contributing factor. They may be premature and do not have the energy to breastfeed effectively, or may have trouble latching on. Babies might have a difficult time finding the right position in which they can nurse comfortably, or they may have medical conditions that make breastfeeding a little more difficult. These are some of the breastfeeding challenges that we are trained to help mom and baby overcome so they may enjoy all the benefits of breastfeeding. There will be triumphs and challenges along the way, but our job is to cross the finish line with our moms and babies. We call it graduation day, and it is definitely something to celebrate and be proud of!

What are the benefits to mom and baby of breastfeeding?

feature-mom-breastfeeding-baby-outside-274x168The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous for both mom and baby. Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for babies. It is a living substance that contains hormones, enzymes, growth factors, anti-infective properties and all the nutrition that infants need to grow strong and healthy. Breast milk has many antibodies and antiviral properties to protect babies from illness and infection. Breastfeeding also protects infants from allergies, obesity, diabetes, certain childhood cancers and SIDS. It is always the right temperature and available at any time without any preparation. Breastfeeding is also free, whereas the costs of formula and bottle feeding can be upwards of $3,000 per year.

For mom, breastfeeding helps prevent heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, helps her to lose her pregnancy weight faster, creates a strong bond with her baby, helps prevent anemia and osteoporosis, and is even protective against breast and ovarian cancers. Breast milk has the amazing ability to constantly change according to the environment of the mom and baby. The mother’s body will recognize any germs that are around her baby and create milk specific to those germs to ensure that her baby is getting optimal immune protection. This is called the “enteromammary pathway,” and is unique to each mother and baby.

What first interested you into going into your field of work?

I have always loved moms and babies. Right out of nursing school, I knew that I wanted to be a perinatal nurse. When I started working as a nurse in Labor and Delivery, I was at a Baby-Friendly designated hospital (BFHI). To be designated as Baby Friendly, all staff taking care of moms and babies must complete a 16-hour classroom session and a five-hour clinical session with a lactation consultant in breastfeeding promotion, training, and management. During this training, I became captivated with breastfeeding. I had always known that breastfeeding was the way we were meant to feed our babies but had not given it much more thought than that. Once I learned about the countless benefits of breastfeeding, the ways a woman’s body adapts to growing and sustaining her child outside of the womb, and the natural born instincts that infants have right at delivery, I knew this was my calling. I became very passionate about learning all that I could about this amazing process. Within the next month, I started my journey to becoming an IBCLC. In regards to my career, it was the best decision I have ever made.

For resources and information on breastfeeding, visit kp.org/pregnancy and check out the section under “caring for your baby.”